A Quick Guide to Songkran 2011 in Thailand
By Moragot Kongkiatkul 11 April, 2011
What is it?
Songkran marks the beginning of a new solar year and the summer season in Thailand. It’s Thailand’s most popular festival, starting officially on April 13 (though some cities start celebrating a couple of days earlier) and lasting between three and five days, depending on where you are in Thailand.
Traditionally, families and friends celebrate Songkran by visiting temples and splashing water on each other to wish each other good luck.
Over the years, it’s evolved into a nationwide water fight and a fantastic reason to travel and party. Most employers let their staff take time off over Songkran.
Where to celebrate
Residents in some Thai towns splash water in the streets for just one day, which is picked by local officials. So check before you travel. Other towns extend it into a full week of ceremonies, water fights, concerts and other festivities.
Here are four of several big festivals going on around Thailand that will give you a dose of both watery chaos and traditional culture.
Songkran Festival, Chiang Mai (April 12-15, 2011)
Chiang Mai is the wildest place to celebrate Songkran in Thailand. It starts with an opening ceremony that includes a colorful procession around Chiang Mai city.
Pour some Thai scented water on a Buddha image and elders, check out some traditional Lanna cultural performances and join in the massive water fights taking place on every just about every street.
Things really get wild at night, with the celebrations continuing well into the morning.
Old City Songkran Festival, Ayutthaya (April 13, 2011)
This year, Songkran festivities at the ancient capital of Ayutthaya will be celebrated around the island city and ancient moat of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya. The festival focuses on the ancient customs and traditions of Songkran that have been observed through the centuries. Visitors can join residents in traditional Songkran merit-making activities to seek blessings for the New Year.
The ancient city of Ayutthaya is also famous for its elephant corral. If you don’t mind getting drenched with water mixed with a bit of pachyderm snot, join the elephants and their mahouts for some Songkran battle action.
Other popular Songkran highlights in Ayutthaya include the Miss Songkran Beauty Contest and the Grand Songkran procession.
Si Satchanalai Songkran Festival, Sukhothai (April 13-15, 2011)
Residents of the historic town of Sukhothai are also celebrating Songkran in the traditional Thai way at Traphang Thong temple in front of the Sukhothai Historical Park and Phraya Litai Memorial Plaza, Sukhothai.
There’s a traditional market in the town square and a retro-style floating market and temple fair. Most people will be dressed in Thai costumes. Click here for more info.
Nong Khai I-San Grand Songkran Festival (April 12–15, 2011)
Most of the events going on as part of the Nong Khai Songkran Festival take place at the Pho Chai temple and Hat Chomani near the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge that spans the Mekong River.
What makes this festival unique is that Songkran celebrations are a combined Thai-Laos effort, with rituals, cultural performances, folk games and cuisine reflecting the area’s shared heritage.
A highlight of the festival is the procession of the Luang Pho Sai Buddha image, a long-standing tradition which is still being observed to this day.
If you’re not a Songkran veteran, read our list of four things to keep in mind before you head out onto the streets, including the rules of engagement and some safety tips.